Blog Sites Aligned to the Sun

Harman Kaya in Bulgaria Aligns to Solstices and Equinoxes

Harman Kaya is located in the Rhodope mountains in south-east Bulgaria. It is a concentration of various features hewn into rock surrounding a deep cave that once featured a door, various rock cut basins, wall niches, observation platforms, altars, and stone thrones. Harman Kaya translates as “the place of rocky grounds.”

The stone sanctuary of Harman Kaya can be seen in the video below:

Archeoastronomical research of the ancient solar observatory found on one of the platforms at Harman Kaya indicates this rock complex was originally created and used for solar observations around 2000 BC.1

A key feature of Harman Kaya is a solar observatory that marks the solstices and equinoxes in very much the same way as Macedonia’s Kokino Observatory, where one can stand in a specific observation spot opposite a wall of rock formations to observe the sun as it rises and sets on the other side of this stone wall throughout the year. On solstice and equinox days the sun can be seen through specific notches in the rock formation.

A photo of the sun observed through a notch within the rock wall on summer solstice day can be seen here.

The floor of this observation spot features concentric semicircles carved into the rock. A stone throne oriented towards north-east can be found hewn into the rock on the west end of this formation,2 which again is reminiscent of the Kokino site where a stone throne is positioned in the key observation spot.

harman kaya observation of solstices and equinoxes alignments

Harman Kaya observation platform tracking solstices and equinoxes. Photo by Filipov Ivo [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

 
Additional photos of the surroundings (click on each photo to enlarge):

 
More beautiful photos of this rock complex (as well as other similar sites in Bulgaria) can be found on photographer Krasimir Andonov’s photo gallery here.

Information about ancient sites aligned to the sun can be found here:


Pavlin Boev and Laura Boeva contributed research and photos for this article.


  1. Harman Kaya. Research by Stoev, A. and others 2003. Accessed August 02, 2017. http://rock-cut.thracians.org/en/s_m_harman.php

  2. Ibid 

28 Comments

  • It’s good to see Harman Kaya featured here. Thanks, Jenny!

    It’s interesting to see the basins are actually quite common between different sacred sites across the world. I wonder if you or anyone else has come across a good explanation about what could their use be? I think, in Bulgaria they are generally believed to have been used for ritual cleansing.

    • I find it interesting how common they are as well, and how they are often in couples. Just before typing this I saw someone share elsewhere a picture of a similar double basin found in Switzerland. They really do seem to crop up in many places.

      I haven’t seen anything concrete about their purpose. Just theories about them possibly being ritual basins, etc. I’d say it’s possible, but for me it’s really difficult to come to conclusions on this because the theories stem out of a lack of knowledge / understanding about the builders of these sites and their culture and practices, and sometimes things get reduced to simplistic explanations (due to this lack of understanding, or maybe even a lack of imagination…) when there could be much more to the story or a completely different and unexpected explanation.

      But maybe if more and more such sites get discovered and explored more clues will come to light.

  • Even without a sacred site there this looks like it would be a majestic place to be to say the least. I can only imagine how much more impactful and inspiring it would be to witness the movements of the sun and the stars at a place like this.

    • I was thinking the same thing – looks like an amazing spot that would have made it quite an event to visit for ceremonies. It would have been much easier to focus on spiritual things being at a place like that.

      There’s something really special about traveling to a secluded spot, and particularly a site that raises up in the mountains like this one.

    • The ancient practitioners of the Religion of the Sun seemed to have had a knack for picking naturally beautiful and majestic places, and incorporating the natural features around them into their sacred sites and alignments.

      In this case it looks like they placed the observation site to make use of the natural rock features around them, so that the sun was viewable through certain notches in the rock formation on solstice and equinox days. The countryside and scenery itself is very beautiful too.

      Reminds me of other sites where the observation/ceremony site is positioned to line up and align with a direct view of the sun rising through a natural feature like a distant natural rock window for instance on solstice or equinox days.

      • I was thinking almost exactly the same thing.

        The sites which are built into the existing landscape have a quite different feel to them than Stonehenge or other sites which stand on their own, but there is something really beautiful about making a sanctuary out of nature like that which aligns to the sun.

    • That’s a good point Jordan. Now that I think about it, all but one (Beglik Tash on the seaside that was hidden in a forest, different from Belintash) of the sacred sites we visited in Bulgaria (and have researched so far) were placed on exceptionally beautiful locations, elevated high above the surrounding scenery. Especially Belintash comes to mind; when standing on it you feel like you are somehow suspended in the air, all around there is a low valley with some mountains in the horizon.

  • Thanks Jenny, I enjoyed the video and the beautiful photos.
    This another amazing spiritual sun site, it surely must be a very special location to celebrate solstices and equinoxes.

  • When my husband and I visited this site, I was surprised at how forgotten it seemed. I remember only one or two obscure signs pointing the way to it, and even so I was unsure if we were going the right way because of the lack of any markers that there would be an important sacred site there. Then we just sort of stumbled upon it – this amazing, mysterious site, clearly made with a lot of intelligence and precision, felt almost lost and forgotten in the wilderness.

    As we hadn’t read up about it enough before visiting it, we didn’t actually know there was a cave there, as you would have had to go down and around to be able to find it, as you can see in the video. It would have been wonderful to be able to visit it too.

    Geraldine, those water basins always intrigue me so much. At many of the sacred sites we visited in Bulgaria, there was always such a basin, smoothly carved in the rock. At another site (Belintash) there were two such basins, one with a sort of seat around it carved in the rock, as if it was meant for bathing. Indeed it was wide and deep enough for a person to go in. Even though the air was still, the water seemed to be slowly circulating anti-clockwise, and I couldn’t feel the bottom even with a long stick. With Harman Kaya, it struck me that there was water in those basins even with very hot weather and a blazing sun. How interesting to know that the Incas also used water basins. It is indeed awe inspiring that these sites separated by entire continents share such consistent features and details.

    • Thank you for sharing that experience of it, Laura. Maybe Bulgaria has so many ancient sites that they kind of “forget” about some of them, not spending a lot of time on them.

      This makes me think of my visit to a small circle of stones in Norway. It was strange how you just climbed a hill behind someone’s house to get to it. There was hardly any information about it, and that too felt kind of forgotten and ignored.

      I wonder what those basins of water were for?

      Must be amazing to be there on the Summer Solstice.

      • The way you described climbing into that ignored spot reminded me how odd it was that while Jordan and I were exploring the caves and climbing around the area I described in the comment below, a local person came up to ask if we wanted to buy a coconut. I noticed he had a stand somewhere in the corner behind the caves and that his chickens and dog were running around. I think his house was just to the back there. I just remember thinking how odd that for me this was like this extraordinary moment of finding a new ancient site and in the middle of it all someone was trying to nonchalantly sell me a coconut — how random! 😄

      • Anne Linn, that is kind of funny, a stone circle almost in someone’s backyard, but kind of sad too! Shows how disconnected we are from our past. And yes, it seems like some areas in Bulgaria are full of sites, sometimes just next to villages so the locals have got used to them, but some are well known, researched and visited. Maybe it’s a bit like it used to be in Greece, you can’t walk around much without stumbling upon ancient ceramics or ruins and you don’t think much of it because of that.

        Jenny, I can imagine how absurd that would have been! Shows also some of how the human psychology works, just like the above too – growing up or living somewhere it’s part of your psychological landscape and maybe hard to take out of that context.

    • Thanks for sharing, Laura. When I saw this site I immediately thought of Belintash too — the similarities are very obvious here 🙂 .

      I can relate to that feeling of a site neglected or forgotten. I had a similar experience while Jordan and I were traveling in Java. One day we went to visit a very small temple complex on top of a mountain. The main tourist area was described as an old palace, but only “platforms” and a gate of this palace allegedly remained. The site was quite beautifully set on a mountain top with lots of other mountains and valleys around. While exploring, I suddenly spotted a wall of massive megalithic rocks off to the side of the main area — being really fascinated with this style of ancient rock structures I knew straight away that this wall was a tell-tale sign of interesting megalithic things hiding in the surroundings… So we went exploring around that wall and just outside of the main touristy area we found incredible rock cut structures, caves, steps, and so on. It was the first time I’ve seen these ancient “solid rock” sites in real life so it was really exciting to explore them. Outside of one of the caves there I noticed a deep square basin filled with water, which really reminded me of Belintash as well. I felt certain that the same culture / knowledge was behind these two places (and others). This basin also had a faint pattern etched along the inside of the walls which reminded me of patterns etched on many of the dolmens in Europe.

      When we went back to the main site (the “palace” remains) I realized that actually the newer structures were built entirely over an ancient rock hewn complex. Wherever there was exposed earth you could see the old stone foundations underneath the grass / moss. You could see megalithic stones and “cart ruts” protruding everywhere. Remnants of caves, etc. The site became quite interesting 🙂

      In one area in particular there was a concentration of stone basins. You can see a photo below of the two round ones, which really remind me of the Harman Kaya basins (it rained while we were there so some parts of the site were a bit flooded):

      indonesia rock basins

      Note: the brick walls surrounding the basins are all part of the more modern construction (said to be have been built around 792 AD, though my feeling is that it’s possible these more modern structures are more ancient than that). The original ancient structures are all solid rock and the architecture is entirely different. These basins were incorporated into the more modern buildings though.

      Strangely the older part of this site was practically unacknowledged and completely unadvertised. On the ground there’s just a small plaque near the cave section that says these are possibly old hermit meditation caves. When I saw that part of the complex though, all I could think was… this must have been some very peculiar hermit to be able to cut mountains of solid rock into towering 6-10 meter tall smooth and straight walls and corners, build solid rock steps (some of which were big and some of which were mysteriously tiny, similar to many such sites around the world), a multitude of giant basins and wells, caves, and so on… Overall this area very much reminded me of Cappadochia, some sites in Peru, Bali, and other parts of the world featuring nearly identical caves, wall niches, etc. There was also a big part of the more exposed area of the really ancient part (behind the caves) that was fenced off and overgrown with thick jungle-like trees so it was inaccessible, but you could tell there was something more going on in there.

      • Hi Jenny,

        That’s a great experience! It’s like you got to be explorers and discover this forgotten place on your own 🙂 But yes it’s strange how one hardly knows about these very ancient sites, while more recent ones are advertised and known about – perhaps because they are better preserved they’d appear more interesting? Reading your experience made me think how there are probably so many more such ancient sites around the world that are forgotten.

        It appears that in many places this was the custom – rebuilding on already existing sacred sites. So then you would say it is X years old, while it could actually be much older and the most ancient remains might not even exist anymore.

        That double water basin is very interesting – almost identical to the one at Harman Kaya, as well as at the sacred complex Kovil nearby, though it’s a bit less smoothly made/preserved, as seen here. On Belintash the basins are very deep, smooth and well preserved, but more far apart and not side by side.

        I know – this is what I think when they say that these sites with solar alignments functioned as calendars that helped the people tell the time. If those people were so sophisticated, intelligent and capable as to being able to build such amazingly well aligned and designed sites, surely they wouldn’t need them to tell the time…

        Your account reminded me of an experience my husband and I had – we saw a relatively newly discovered Bulgarian ancient site online that was said to align with the equinoxes, however we couldn’t find the exact directions to get there. Only the name of the nearest village was given, as well as photos of the site so you could kind of have a feel for what the landscape would look like. We decided to try to find it.

        We found the village and also found the road that took you to the site – however we discovered it wasn’t going to be that easy because where the site was supposed to be there was a long high ridge full of what looked like ancient megaliths and ruins. We happened to spot something from the distance that looked most like the megalith we were looking for, and amazingly it was the one and we found our way there. I was struck by how the area was literally littered the whole way through with those ruins and megaliths, however it is unknown to the general public, possibly just the locals are aware of it.

        Here are two images of it we took – one and two, it’s called ‘The Brothers’ by the locals.

        We wanted to celebrate the spring equinox there but weren’t able to at the time. Hopefully more opportunities will arise to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes on sites that actually align with them.

        • Those are some massive pillars 😮 — sounds like a nice place to explore. And, yes, I get the sense there’s really so much hidden in plain sight all over the world that’s just ignored or misunderstood, or just not yet explored.

          Even one of Java’s best known temples (Borobudur), which we also visited, was completely overgrown with jungle until a foreigner realized there was a temple there and took an interest in having it restored in relatively recent history. In comparison, the smaller and more rugged/ rustic sites, menhirs, stone circles, caves, statues, etc. would seem less “entertaining” to for the average tourist, or are located in places that lack tourist accommodations / attractions / transportation, so they remain largely ignored and unexplored. But they are there nonetheless…

  • What an incredible workmanship! The stone throne is just amazing really – I can imagine how special and spectacular a summer solstice ceremony would be in that setting. I love how the ancients were able to incoporate and use nature in such precise way. I can imagine that finding this spot would have taken some time, and then carving and building it to what it became. The rock basins with water are very reminiscent of the water observatory built by the Incas, some are found in Machu Piccu for example. It is amazing how these places feel so connected to one another even though they are separated by vast distance.

    • Hey Gege. I agree, the structure and the basins are really interesting. I’ve visited a site in Indonesia a while back with the same basins and similar stone work, and I know similar structures are found elsewhere in many places around the world, including South America. I think there’s a very high concentration of these in Belintash (also in the Rhodopes in Bulgaria).

      I’m not sure which water observatory you mean specifically, but from what I’ve seen I suspect that if it was built in a similar fashion there’s a high chance it might have been a pre-Inca structure. This construction method seems to be from even more ancient times and often you find new temples built on top of such structures (or incorporating them into the new designs).

      • Hi Jenny,

        I mean that at Maccu Picchu, for example, there is a water basin that was likely used to look at the stars, as the reflection of the sky in water allows to focus on the stars very easily. Much more easily than actually looking up, and if you move around, or take a few steps back for example, the sky reflection in the water changes allowing you to look at a different starts or constellations – it was a very smart way to study the sky, really, no kinked necks! As well as being able to truly focus your sight and attention to a particular spot in the sky.

        And the Incas were known to use them to watch the stars – whether or not they built them is another matter 🙂 as so many sites seem to be much much older than previously thought, perhaps I should have said ‘used’ and not ‘built’ to be more accurate.

        • Gege, that’s interesting as this is just what I’ve read some people believe the various small ‘cup’ shapes on Belintash were used for – when they were filled with water, they would have created a star map, mirroring the night sky. Very fascinating that again here is such a consistent feature on these sites that are separated by vast spaces of time and distance.

          • If you scroll to the left, the ninth photo in this gallery shows those cup shapes, dry at the time but illuminated by light to create a wonderful effect.

          • Sorry, I meant this gallery in my comment,

            If you scroll to the left, the ninth photo in this gallery shows those cup shapes, dry at the time but illuminated by light to create a wonderful effect.

        • This is very interesting about these stars mirroring in water basins Geraldine, how amazing! It reminded me of an ancient Egyptian astral projection practice mentioned in the book Astral Codex by Belsebuub, where one would concentrate on the stars, the light of which was coming from the shafts in the pyramids, mirrored in a bowl of water placed under the shaft.

          Looking at the images of those differently shaped basins though, I was wondering why would they need so many? To focus on particular constellations?

        • Oh I see what you mean now. That type of water observatory idea is really interesting. Like Lucia, I instantly thought of the Egyptian temple star observatories too 🙂

          Machu Picchu definitely appears to be a site built over a much older site. There are very distinct differences between older (or in some cases bottom layer or the foundations, main features, etc.) megalithic structures there (example one or two) and the newer constructions / top layers (example). I think the evidence about the more ancient history/builders of the site is often overlooked or ignored — it is obviously far more superior in style and construction, and speaks of people with very advanced knowledge in the ancient past in this area.

        • Fascinating Geraldine – I hadn’t thought of that before. As others mentioned, I was reminded of the experience Belsebuub relates in The Astral Codex about being shown the stars in a bowl of water in Egypt (for people’s reference it’s in Chapter 9, section called “A Meditation Technique I Was Taught in the Astral Plane”).

          It makes perfect sense to use the reflection in still water that way. And yes, no kinked necks! That’s often the trouble with looking at the night sky for too long!

          • Yes I remember reading it too and being genuinely amazed about Belsebuub doing ‘practices in the higher world’ as at my level, hey, I’m just trying to do practices to get to the astral… in the first place…!

            I have at one point lived close to a place that had a large ponds and I remember one night going for a walk and the night was completely still. There was no clouds in the sky and no wind, and when I came to the pond it was completely still. And the stars were reflecting in the water so perfectly, it was even more beautiful than looking up. I could even see the milky way. It was mesmerizing how detailed the sky looked in the water.
            Apparently it is because water reflects light better than air (having a higher refraction index) and the water in the pond was pretty dark to start with so very little light got absorbed into the water.

          • That sounds quite magical, Geraldine. Thanks for adding a new “dimension” to these water basins and how they reflect light. I hadn’t considered it like that before, and the concept sounds even more magical now.

        • Interesting to bring up that notion guys of water basins functioning to mirror the stars.

          When I read about and tried a visualisation practice like that, given by Belsebuub in the book ‘The Astral Codex’, it felt like there was more to it, a deep symbolic meaning.

          Coincidentally I was thinking of similar things yesterday (although possibly from a different angle/meaning) when I was reading up on the spiritual meaning of the autumn equinox in the Path of the Spiritual Sun book. It talks about going into darkness to extract light and various examples are given, such as in the great pyramids, of descending tunnels/passages.

          And I thought to myself how would they have or could they, or in general what would be a good way to show this light in the darkness? A candle perhaps. Then I also thought perhaps a container of water reflecting a bright star? (reflecting it from another passage upward on the other side for example.) As the ceremony in the book also mentions ‘Hbs m Pht”, attain the star.

          Not sure if such a set up was ever used for that purpose, or even if it would work practically.

          But these basins in Bulgaria, and other places, seem like they could function as beautiful mirrors of the stars!

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